11 April - 10 May 2014 Punta Gorda, FL (Naples, Winter Haven, Ocala, Amelia Island by car)

     Punta Gorda was our first stop after our Naples visit. Several of our friends live there and we were looking forward to visiting them and exploring the area as we continue to look for where we'd want to live when (and if) we ever have to abandon this full-time cruising lifestyle.  That little town should be named Venice because there are canals everywhere.  



     While there, Bill and the Enterprise folks were on a first name basis as we used their cars on several occasions that month.  We drove to Amelia Island for our trawler rendezvous and engaged in a bit of motor coach shopping on the way home.  We've heard so much about The Villages, the development for "seniors", so we stopped there to see what all the conversation is about.  It isn't at all what we'd envisioned i.e. a bunch of old folks barely able to move, pushing walkers and dragging O2 tanks.  It could be a city.  Population 100, 000!!!  And no decrepit geezers that we saw but very fit and active "seniors" running, cycling, playing tennis and loving their Golden Years.  The landscaping is beautiful and homes range from little cottage/bungalow types to multimillion dollar estates.  The Villages has its own retail, physicians, and even a hospital.  A couple we met there--he's retired and she's a RN, wanted us to go to dinner with them---which we did---and they invited us to spend the night.  They had never met us till that afternoon and I think they should be crowned "Ambassadors" for that community.  So now we've seen The Villages, declined their kind overnight invitation, and drove back home which wasn't very far.



Back in Punta Gorda, we spent Easter Sunday with our ex-dock neighbors in the Keys, Patt and Bill, who've recently bought a condo in Punta Gorda on one of the multiple canals.


Janis and Ralph also live in Punta Gorda and are trawler friends that we met years ago through the trawler owners' association.  They had us to their home for dinner, loaned us a vehicle for a weekend, drove us around giving us a tour of areas they'd suggest living in if we decide to settle there.  They couldn't have been more gracious and absolutely put themselves and whatever they had, at our disposal.




One of the gifts of being an early riser.  I love how the fog obscures the Port Charlotte end of the bridge as if it's releasing it to commuters as their work week day begins.


      Enterprise enabled us (again) to make a couple trips to Naples to the Apple Store.  Those are rare and hard to find along the waterway.  Was really surprising that Sarasota doesn't have one so we were obliged to take advantage of Naples' store.  That was a treat---it's in the elegant Waterside Shoppes with Tiffany, Brooks Brothers, Burbury, Cartier, deBeers, Yamron, Salvatore Ferragamo, and purveyors of that ilk----so making 2 trips there wasn't that much of an imposition!  :-)  It also gave us the opportunity to see areas of Naples that we didn't get to see on our cycling excursions as well as restock our larder of heavy or bulky items that aren't suitable to transport on a bike.

     Several years ago when we were in Ft. Myers, a friend from our city of retirement, Greenville, SC, came to visit.  He and Bill went to the GM car museum housed in an old WalMart and then the  3 of us went to St.James City on Pine Island, to a biker bar, The Ragged Ass Saloon.  Bill and I went back there with Janis and Ralph's vehicle but it just wasn't the same without Plex...or the clientele had changed.  When we were there before, it didn't seem that it could degrade any farther but think it has.  We concluded that to really feel at home there and part of the 'crowd', we needed a vast assortment of ink covering our epidermis, "leathers", and cigarettes.  We witnessed a woman light up right next to a guy on O2---they weren't even a foot apart---so decided there was no time like the present to make our exodus and the quicker the better before the whole place blew up.

                                   And we aren't even in the Keys!


     My Bill and Patt's Bill went to the GM Muscle Car Museum and while there, talked to the owner. Meantime Patt is introducing me to her favorite shops. Collecting these cars has just been a hobby for him and he's kinda getting tired of it and is ready to move on to something else. 





     He hopes some one will come in and buy the whole kit and caboodle for $24 million, otherwise all 220 cars will all go to auction. If you would like to visit this museum, you'll need to make haste because next year this time it will be just a fond memory unless one of you will step forward.  The four of us went to lunch after both Bills decided that hobby wasn't within their budget.



     Punta Gorda has great cycling paths that are segments of the Rails to Trails project.  The city wants to be known as a Bicycle Friendly city so to make that visible, there are brightly painted and decorated bikes parked around the city.  I couldn't pick and choose—they were all cute and eye-catching in their own way.






     There are 14 more but these oughta give you the "impression".







     It's time to move on and continue our journey.  Leaving Punta Gorda was difficult.  We say that about every place when we leave.  We’ve made a bucket list for our next trip there—things we wanted to do, restaurants we wanted to try, and places we wanted to cycle but ran out of time.

Bill and Laura Bender
Kindred Spirit III


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